“The government has been urged to review its policy on multi-academy trusts after it was revealed that more than 40,000 children were being educated in “zombie schools” waiting to be transferred to another academy chain.
Department for Education figures, obtained through a freedom of information request, show 64 academy schools are waiting to find a new sponsor after being abandoned by, or stripped from, the trust originally managing them. A calculation using the average number of pupils in state-funded primary and secondary schools in England – 279 and 946, respectively –suggests the 64 schools would contain more than 40,000 students.
The government has encouraged academies to join multi-academy trusts, promoting them as a support for schools that have left local authority control, although some have been criticised for financial mismanagement and a lack of oversight.
Half of the 64 “zombie schools” are waiting to be transferred from two chains: the Education Fellowship Trust and Wakefield City Academies Trust. In March the former became the first trust in England to give up control of its 12 academies – including a school in the prime minister’s Maidenhead constituency – following concerns about educational standards. In September the Wakefield trust said it would divest itself of 21 schools across Yorkshire, as it could not undertake the “rapid improvement our academies need”.
The DfE said it was in the process of securing new academy chains for the schools in both trusts.
Until a new multi-academy trust is found, the schools remain in limbo, often unable to make long-term planning decisions, hire new permanent members of staff or organise pay rises. They do not have the option to return to local authority control. Campaigners say that the government is struggling to find new chains willing and able to take on the schools, many of which have been left in a precarious financial position by their previous sponsor.
“The Tories’ fragmented education system is now creating ‘zombie schools’ caught between academy chains who are under no obligation to take them on, and a government that won’t step in to help them,” said Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary. “Even in the prime minister’s own seat it seems there are classrooms of children not getting the education they deserve. … ”
The figures come after it was announced on Thursd